Technology has become a ubiquitous part of life. But in the property industry, personal relationships are hugely important, as is the ability to read the markets.
We assessed what role software and technology has to play in helping property professionals tackle new and existing challenges.
We surveyed investors, agents and occupiers across our readership to discover the challenges facing the property industry today – and how technology might help overcome them.
Participants included chief executives and directors from various types of firms in the industry. But we also spoke to the younger generation and to those at firms large and small to gain an insight covering the whole real estate sector.
Challenges in the property industry
The key challenges facing property professionals differed depending on the industry sub-sector. Agents ranked compliance with legislation and professional standards as their most pressing challenge. Occupiers, meanwhile, said understanding the property function within the wider business was the biggest issue.
Striking was the fact that many of the greatest challenges facing the industry today are not new. While investors ranked access to funding as a pressing issue, this ranked equally with the need to deliver high levels of customer service.
But, if many of the issues facing property professionals have been around for years, what has changed is the amount of software and technology now available to tackle these challenges.
The role of software and technology
More than half of those surveyed recognised that software and technology could help them overcome their core business challenges. This figure differed depending on the particular challenge and the sub-sector, and some were less optimistic than others. But, while software has limited influence on the willingness of banks to lend, most of those we spoke to were positive about the role that software and technology can play in tackling challenges such as compliance with regulation or the need to maintain the highest standard of customer services.
Among those whose greatest challenge was compliance with legislation, more than two in three said they believed software could help them. Agents were most optimistic about technology on the whole, with two in three saying they felt it could help. In particular, the agency world was positive about mobile technology. But occupiers followed closely behind in their willingness to embrace technology. “How could it not help?” said one.
While many respondents acknowledged the possibilities offered by technology, many also noted its capacity to create its own challenges. There emerged a frustration that software packages do not “talk to each other”. Others felt that technology does not cater to the needs of the modern property professional. However, analysis of complaints voiced in the survey revealed that many companies are unaware of features already provided by their software packages. Underinvestment in staff training and lack of engagement with software providers may also be contributing to many companies’ sense of frustration.
There remains a healthy level of scepticism about technology’s true capacity to tackle real estate challenges. Some participants report that it has not always met expectations. But in many cases, software’s capability is less of an issue than ensuring the necessary training and support is made available. Many agents, investors and occupiers are gearing up to invest large sums in software and technology over the next few years. If these investments are to provide good value, companies should be prepared to engage with their suppliers fully to explore the capacity of their new technology.